Saturday, December 30, 2006

Music Review: Josh Groban - Awake

What can I say? I'm a Grobanite and have been since the term was coined on his early website bulletin board and in the AOL chat room. For the second time, I purchased a Josh Groban CD on the day it was released. Unlike with the release of Closer when I was waiting for the store to open before going to work, I waited until the evening to purchase Awake, but I started playing it in the car before leaving the parking lot. From the first lyric to the last, the trademark Josh Groban voice remains in fine form. If there is a finer male voice in music today, I've not heard it. Certainly some performers have a gimic and some have a greater range, but if I was told I could only listen to one male singer for the rest of my life, I would choose Josh without having to think.

With that said, Awake, is a disappointment in that there is no standout song. The cd contains all original songs (to the best of my knowledge though some of the foreign language tracks may have been recorded by previous artists), but none of them reach out and grab me. I don't hit repeat on my iPod when any one song plays. I can listen to the entire cd repeatedly and be perfectly content, however, almost two months later, I have never caught myself singing along to one of the songs.

The biggest disappointment, though, is that two "bonus" tracks are only available if the cd is bought at a certain store or in a certain format (Target and iTunes for example). More artists and production companies use this practice and I find it highly offensive and discriminatory to consumers. After making my purchase at a store, I came home and purchased two "bonus" tracks from iTunes, one of which is the TITLE SONG. Who thinks this is a good idea? Josh should be ashamed that his production company pulled this stunt and should offer to replace the cd of everyone who purchased an incomplete version with the full fifteen track cd.

Josh continues to grow with his Italian lyrics. Each cd has shown an improvement in his fluency in the language. I do not know how much study of the language he has undertaken since his first cd, but it sounds now like he could converse comfortably. Many singers sing phonetically and do a good job, but they don't show a natural fluency in the language [I don't know Italian at all, but the songs on Awake sound more fluid to my raw ear] which Josh seems to be grasping with each new cd.

Josh's songwriting improves as well on Awake. He wrote the music, lyrics, or both on four songs. One to which he contributed music and lyrics, "February Song" anchors the English songs on the cd. Josh covers his full range on the song. His other music/lyric contributions include: "Now or Never", "Lullaby", and "Machine." Sadly, "Machine," with Herbie Hancock is probably the weakest song on the cd: it simply does not fit him.

As he has on his previous cd's, Josh manages to get some talented guests to perform with him. In addition to Herbie Hancock mentioned above, Josh has Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform on two songs. He harmonized beautifully with them and if I were to put a song on repeat, it would be "Weeping." The lyrics to "Weeping" tell a story that while African sounding, contains lessons for us too.

Despite the fact that I'm disappointed at the lack of any blow-my-socks-off songs, Awake on the whole remains a solid piece of work. I strongly recommend the purchase of the cd, but be certain to purchase it at a store or in the format that contains all fifteen songs, not the thirteen available in some locations - at least until Josh remedies the horror of the short cd.
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